It is undeniable that the hype around coaching and mentoring is real: people hear a lot about both things, especially under today’s fast-paced and stressful circumstances. However, as the saying says, plenty of people have managed to go further that they thought they could just because someone else firmly believed they could. Although the terminology, and the words «mentoring» and «coaching», are seemingly—and often used—interchangeable, reality dictates otherwise; however, one thing is certain: both mentors and coaches can get to be highly meaningful and worthwhile resources. But, what is the difference between these two? And, moreover, how can people know which one they really need?
Suzzanne Uhland has already mentioned valuable things about mentoring and different approaches to finding the right one irrespective of the stage; nonetheless, it is wise to first determine the distinction between mentors and coaches. Normally, or at least how tradition has previously shown, mentors were commonly assigned within a corporate organization to help its employees get acquainted with their roles. Today, and as of the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital era, mentors have shifted towards a more holistic approach and act as mere advisers regardless of whether they receive any kind of compensation or not.
Today’s most common connotation around mentors is that they embody successful persons who are always willing to share what they have learned and the wisdom they have acquired throughout their lives to provide accurate and useful insights to entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone willing to listen. One key aspect, nonetheless, is that they function differently: they always stay in a reactive-expecting position, helping people once they come across any sort of challenge. Thus, and even though a mentor may not have enough expertise in the mentee’s field, they are quite proficient at navigating the corporate world and the business field.
And that is an overall view of the mentoring end. Coaches, on the other hand, often have enough expertise in a particular field, and most of the times such expertise matches the field of the people they are helping. In general, coaches possess several certifications and strong and solid management skills. In the corporate world, coaches play a vital role in supporting different CEOs or venture capitalists as well as entrepreneurs. Their main function is to help them foresee any possible challenge in the upcoming future and come up with effective ideas on how to proceed and tackle them as they arise. Their nature, all in all, is somewhat proactive: coaches definitely enjoy participating and coming up with ideas that may help their customers and their coachees.
The intricacies of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee are rather open-ended: it can last for decades, whereas regular and traditional coaching happens for one specific reason, and once the issue has been addressed or solved, the relationship normally ends.
Which seems like the wisest choice?
After considering the aforementioned aspects in regard to the different intricacies of both relationships, people should already know which type of relationship suits them best and which would serve a much greater purpose; nonetheless, it is wise to consider the following aspects as well:
Consider where are you now
Perhaps, one of the greatest factors, if not the most important, is the stage of the journey. An entrepreneurship enthusiast seeking to thrive in her or his business often needs a mentor who can provide guidance as to how to overcome basic challenges and how to tackle the issues that often arise when establishing a business. At this point, a mentor seems to be quite a good choice given the fact that they can provide a much wider spectrum of advice and connections that might come in handy for the business. As businesses grow, they tend to get more uncanny, and issues become more nuanced than in early stages. Once the business has reached this point, working alongside a coach seems a much better idea, especially if the coach also happens to work in the same industry; thus, the coachee will get a much better perspective towards the future.
Name your needs
Irrespective of the stage of the journey, if a particular individual has already identified a specific need, the wisest choice leans towards working alongside a coach.
For example, if a startup or an already-established company is experiencing corporate development difficulties, which in turn prevent the company from scaling its business, a coach with expertise in such field will certainly be much better; however, if the same individual has not identified and named specific needs, and all she or he needs is proper guidance, a mentor would serve a much better purpose.